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Enigma’s Pete Chapman talks to The Australian about regional markets.

Brands must adjust their outlook around the importance of regional advertising to match the movement of consumers that’s sweeping the nation, argue leaders of Australian ad agencies.

According to Pete Chapman, managing director of Enigma, which has brands on the books such as Snowy Hydro-owned electricity and gas company Red Energy, Kennards Hire, Australian health care fund nib, Spotify, Newcastle University, Transport for NSW and more, on average, brands are only investing 10 per cent of their media budget in regional Australia, with an overwhelming majority being spent in major cities.

“This is madness considering the advantages these overlooked areas have to offer – significant market share, great value media and access to growing target audiences,” Mr Chapman said.

“There is a real opportunity for smart brands to think beyond the latte curtain of our major cities and capitalise on this profitable (and currently passive) brand-building landscape.”

If brands are to see the full potential of the Australian market, he said they will need to look to the bush as regional people have two things that all marketers dream of their audiences having – time and disposable income.

According to regional market expert and MD of specialist agency, Redhanded, Lachlan Drummond, he believes that the mistake many marketers tend to make when thinking about regional Australia is to see it as one homogeneous place. Instead, he said it’s a mosaic of different values, attitudes and behaviours that more brands must wake up to.

With history, geography, climate and infrastructure having created different communities, culture, passions and enterprises, there can’t be a broad brush approach on comms, he explained.

“For this reason, hyper-local, bottom-up campaigns tend to work best outside metro markets, since they speak accurately to the regions,” Mr Drummond said.

“Too often major metro-oriented brands add regional as an afterthought. They attempt to ‘tick the regional box’ by perhaps including a farmer with an Akubra, or maybe a smiling family looking out on the ‘sunlit plains extended’.”

With a business belief in making brands ‘Famously Local’, Redhanded clients include Elders, The Regional Australia Institute, Bayer and CSL as well as local, state and federal government campaigns encouraging metro audiences to travel, work or invest in regional Australia.

For regional audiences, Mr Drummond, said this leans too far into clichés and away from authenticity with the result often leading to a jarring execution that reinforces inaccurate stereotypes.

“It seems simple, but understanding the audience must always drive creative and media. It’s no different in the regions,” he added.

“Get it right and disproportionate growth in this market is yours.”

On behalf of the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), Redhanded recently targeted metro audiences with a ‘Move to More’ campaign promoting regional living.

The project involved a significant amount of research which revealed that 20 per cent of metro residents are considering a move to regional Australia in the next three years, with the key drivers of considering relocation being the appeal of the regions coupled with dissatisfaction with city life.

RAI CEO Liz Ritchie research found that potential movers are concerned about job opportunities, despite the fact there is now a record 71,300 jobs currently available in regional Australia.

“Brand ‘regional’ had suffered at the hands of incomplete and inaccurate understanding of regional life among many audiences,” she said.

“This campaign tells a better, deeper story and busts the most critical myths to an audience that is more receptive than ever.”

Headquartered in Newcastle, NSW, which Mr Chapman said is the unofficial capital of regional Australia, the exec said only few and smart brands that truly understand the “sleeping giant” of the regional areas will gain unfair market share.

He believes it’s one of the last true competitive advantages left for marketers in this part of the world and cites Red Energy as a great example.

After building a strong business in Victoria from the ground up for more than a decade, Red Energy entered NSW with the same challenger attitude, but instead of tackling metro NSW at a time when brand awareness was low – which would have been expensive and its share of voice too small to make any significant impact – instead, the brand strategically chose to target regional markets.

The company entered those areas in an authentic and tailored way by “putting boots on the ground” and sponsoring local sports and community groups and advertising across broadcast and digital channels.

Toyota is another brand that has long standing relationships with communities across the country, as well as NRMA, which actively engages in regional communities.

“We use regional out of home ongoing as an ownable channel that is super relevant to what we do and, more often than not, we use them to add something rather than sell something – whether it’s to welcome people to country or encourage caravaners to take it easy and enjoy the journey,” CMO of NRMA parent company, IAG, Brent Smart said.

“In relation to regional, really the big shift that needs to occur is that marketers need to stop treating it as an afterthought. Agencies and marketers are just so urban in this country, and it is creating a bias. But at the same time, I don’t think regional Australia has done a good job of telling the story,” Mr Smart said.

Mr Chapman said clients buying media space in regional areas are getting on TV and other broadcast channels in “major ways they could only dream of” achieving in the city.

“Time and time again the clients who invest in regional markets are growing market share significantly in a way that just wouldn’t be possible in the metro areas,” he said.

“The science is simple – if your share of voice as a brand is greater than your share of market, you grow; and in regional markets, increasing share of voice is better value.”

Describing regional markets as “underbaked”, with so few brands fighting for share of voice in an affordable, uncluttered and unchallenged environment, both ad execs said as people move away from cities – a trend spawned by Covid and the work from home trend – it’s going to be even easier for brands to grow and have influence regionally if they get ahead of the game.

By Pippa Chambers for The Australian

The Australian

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